Providence Rec Centers Languish While City Considers Stadium
Monday, June 15, 2015
The city, which recently approved a $696 million budget, has nine recreation centers, and while the department recently unveiled a full program of summer camp offerings, some of the facilities are in dire need of improvements.
SLIDES: See Pictures of Providence Rec Centers BELOW
"Do I think the recreation facilities are adequately funded? I say no," said Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson, the longest serving member of the council. "When we combined recreation with parks, the recreation budget dropped from about $2.1 million to about $800,000 at this point. Now that we've broken out recreation [in the budget], we can see accurately where we're at now. Investing in recreation opportunities is the number one thing we can do for a deterrent for gang activity on our streets."
The City Council invited the leadership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox to come discuss the proposal, after their initial proposition was rejected by the Governor Gina Raimondo on April 27 for being "not fair" to Rhode Islanders. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city would consider any proposal under a specific set of guidelines, including economic impact -- and cost/benefit analysis.
"They haven't sat down with us yet, but their first proposal, there's no way I could agree," said Jackson of the new PawSox ownership group. "Am I willing to give a new proposal consideration? Yes. But they're not bringing everyone to the table at this time."
The ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox had first unveiled a proposal for a $85 million stadium with a thirty year lease deal with the state that would cost taxpayers $4 million a year. Since the passing of former owner James Skeffington, opposition to a publicly funded stadium has continued, as Rhode Island waits for the next move with the AAA ball club.
The Boston Red Sox pay millions in property taxes for Fenway Park.
Former State Representative and Deputy Secretary of State Ray Rickman, who is the former President of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, has been a vocal proponent for recreational opportunities for the city's youth, and swimming opportunities in particular.
"The libraries are not adequately funded. Recreation isn't adequately funded, parks -- everything that would make life better is underfunded," said Rickman. "This isn't new, it's been going on for 20 years. Schools since the '60s have been well-funded, and we're always underfunding everything else. It's police and fire, and then schools and then everything else."
Rickman, who was instrumental in the reopening of the Davey Lopes Recreation Center Pool, after it had been closed in 2013 under then-Mayor Angel Taveras -- and reopened following public outcry -- said he was open to what the PawSox owners could bring to the table for the city.
"I think the public discussion is being rushed, and they're trying to get closure a little to soon," said Rickman. "If what they come back with enables them to be [at the proposed 195 location] -- fixing the utilities, infrastructure, sidewalks, I'm not opposed to helping someone. But what they first came at us with, I am opposed to being robbed."
Community organizer Tina Shepard, the Director of Community Initiatives at One Neighborhood Builders (formerly Olneyville Housing Corporation) decried what she said was misguided priorities on the part of city and state leaders.
"We did not receive funding from RI Housing's Youth Initiative, which we and other CDCs have received for years in the past. It has helped us support youth in Olneyville with summer employment and most recently the Olneyville Youth Council which I created last fall," said Shepard
[It's] ridiculous - we have young men and women losing their lives on the streets of Providence and they are more concerned about building a stadium and offering tax breaks!! You have programs such as Unified Solutions, a group of folks that came together out of concern for our youth and offered free programs because out city seems to be too concerned about other things," said Shepard. "The fact of the matter is people tend to forget when you cut funding for youth programming your basically jeopardizing the future of this state. Youth need to be involved and have access to positive, creative programs. Programs that nurture them allow them to see their potential, build leadership and often times gives these young people a safe and stable environment. The more you cut funding for programming the less positive options our young people have."
Related Slideshow: Providence Recreation Centers
Providence's nine recreation centers are in varying levels of disrepair as of June 2015.
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